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Mobile fuel stations deliver convenience

LANGLEY, B.C. - In the trucking industry, time is money and there's no money being made when the wheels aren't turning. That's why fuelling, although necessary, is rarely something that's looked forwa...


ON-SITE: Mini Tankers brings the fuel station to the truck yard or construction site.
ON-SITE: Mini Tankers brings the fuel station to the truck yard or construction site.

LANGLEY, B.C. – In the trucking industry, time is money and there’s no money being made when the wheels aren’t turning. That’s why fuelling, although necessary, is rarely something that’s looked forward to by fleets and owner/operators. By the time you’ve driven to the nearest cardlock, filled the tank up with diesel and headed back out onto the highway, it’s not uncommon to have lost half an hour or more of productivity.

That’s where Mini Tankers Canada comes into the picture. Headquartered in Langley, B.C., the company runs mobile fueling stations in nearly 50 Canadian markets. President and chief executive officer, Jack Lee, was introduced to the concept of a diesel station on wheels when he visited Australia in the 1980s.

Lee recognized that the concept would be a winner in Canada and since launching the company in 1995, it has grown to the point that it now posts annual revenues of more than $40 million. In fact, the company was recognized in 2001 as one of the five fastest growing companies in B.C.

Ross Sullivan works for B.C.-based Reputations Corporation, the public relations firm that’s been trying to increase awareness about the role Mini Tankers plays in the trucking industry. He says the response has been fantastic so far, in each of its Canadian markets.

Fast to adapt

“Once people understand the savings and how positive it is, it just spreads like crazy,” says Sullivan of Mini Tankers’ popularity. “The trucking industry is one that’s very fast to adapt to it.”

While an over-the-road owner/operator may not benefit from the system being touted by Mini Tankers, local delivery or construction fleets can increase productivity by eliminating refueling from their daily routine.

Usually, Mini Tankers will visit the fleet’s yard during off-peak hours so when the drivers show up for work the next day, the trucks are fully fueled and ready for work.

“They go to the plants overnight when they park all their vehicles and they just go right down the line and fuel them all so it doesn’t take the driver a second,” says Sullivan. “It’s all done when the trucks are quiet.”

The cost to the fleet is a premium – or cartage fee – paid on top of the initial cost of diesel, generally in the four cents per litre range. That figure fluctuates, however, depending on the location of the trucks and other variables, and can reach upward of 12 cents per litre in some instances.

“The client pays Mini Tankers for the convenience of the service,” says Sullivan.

Glenn Chomiak is the Calgary-based Western Canadian regional manager for Mini Tankers, and he says the trucking industry in Western Canada has been quick to embrace the relatively new service.

“In the Prairies, we’ve pretty much tripled our business in two years,” says Chomiak.

The idea of paying a premium on already high diesel prices may seem ludicrous to some fleet managers, but Chomiak says the benefits outweigh the cost and in fact, skyrocketing fuel prices have had little impact on the company’s business so far.

“Overall, it really hasn’t affected us much,” says Chomiak.

“People still have to conduct their business and they have to do it in an economical fashion. We’re all kind of handcuffed by the oil companies.”

For fleets that are loyal to a particular fuel supplier, Mini Tankers will try to accommodate them by providing their fuel of choice. The company does purchase fuel from all the major suppliers. However, it’s often cheaper to go with whatever fuel Mini Tankers happens to be carrying that day.

“If a company is using a specific fuel supplier, we have a couple of accounts across Canada where we’ll just charge them a cartage fee and use their fuel (of choice),” says Chomiak. “But with our buying power (Mini Tankers purchases between nine and 10 million litres of diesel per month) when we sit down with a client and do a cost analysis and give them a price, they usually end up changing and going with us.”

Overcoming obstacles

Sullivan says the company has also won the adoration of its clients because of its commitment to service. In fact, one operator in the Toronto area was recently appalled one morning to see his truck was vandalized overnight. The vehicle was rendered immobile, but in order to meet his clients’ demands, he loaded the entire truck onto a flat deck trailer and hauled it from site to site.

“Even with that kind of obstacle they were able to get the job done,” says Chomiak.

For more information on Mini Tankers, visit the company’s Web site at www.minitankers.ca.


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